Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Holland can stick it to the end

So, the Oranjemen march on. All the way to the 11th night.

This lot won’t be dancing around bonfires on the eve of twelfth. They’ll be hoping to dance around the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg as champions of the world.

They are 90 minutes away — just like their heroes way back in 1974 and 1978.

Those magical ‘Total Football’ teams, who had a special place in the hearts of just about everybody who watched them, couldn’t see it home of course.

The hosts, West Germany and Argentina, beat them in the respective finals. The good news for Holland is that South Africa were knocked out of this competition weeks ago.

They’ll play either Germany or Spain in Sunday’s decider — an all European clash in a World Cup that up to the quarter-finals looked like it would be dominated by the South Americans.

The best that continent can do now is third after Holland’s 3-2 victory over Uruguay, in a semi-final that was more intriguing than exciting.

This may not be the greatest Holland side ever, but they are well on their way to being the most effective.

And for once there seems to be a real sense of togetherness in the ranks.

That’s about as rare as a month without a crisis at the Irish FA.

The Dutch are as famous for their in-fighting as those bright orange shirts.

Name a Netherlands hero and there will be a fascinating tale about a major fall-out with a team-mate or the coach.

Not this time. Yes, there was talk of a spat between Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie but it was quickly sorted out by canny coach Bert van Marwijk and look at the results.

They have won all six of their games to date, including seeing off Brazil.

Not even Germany, my team of the tournament so far, can say that.

And no one can say they have scored a better goal than Giovanni van Bronckhorst in the finals.

From 41 yards out, yes 41, the Dutch skipper smashed home a blistering left foot drive which flew into the net off the woodwork. It was breathtaking.

They may not play like the teams of the 70s but this was a goal straight out of that era. Aarie Hann and Johnny Rep eat your heart out.

Van Bronckhorst used to score blinders at Rangers, but I can’t recall any as good as that stunning first half strike. It was comic book stuff from a real Captain Marvel.

Uruguay have their own superhero of course and Diego Forlan donned his cape again to equalise before the break with a swerving long range effort, which somehow deceived Maarten Stekelenburg in the Dutch goal.

From there it looked like penalties. Then not for the first time in South Africa, Holland got lucky when Sneijder’s 70th minute shot was deflected into the net with Uruguay claiming van Persie was in an offside position.

Incidentally, that was Sneidjer’s fifth goal of the competition. I like him, rate him and if, as has been suggested, Sir Alex Ferguson is determined to bring him to Manchester United ,he will be a fantastic addition to the Premier League, but how FIFA managed to give him the goal against Brazil when his cross clearly went in off a defender’s head beggared belief.

There was no doubt about who scored Holland’s third goal, though, to seal their place in the final, the annoying, arrogant but gifted Arjen Robben netting with a fine header from Dirk Kuyt’s pinpoint delivery, and even though Maximiliano Pereira struck late on for Uruguay, it was merely consolation, just like the third/fourth place and largely meaningless play-off match they have on Saturday.

Compare that to the Dutch who will now play the biggest game of their lives.

See what sticking together does for you. They should have done it years ago.

Belfast Telegraph


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